"Cross border welfare crackdown saves €300,000 in first six months"

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Social Welfare Inspectors working on multi-agency checkpoints along border counties have interviewed over 900 people in the first six months of targeted operations, with savings of some €300,000 realised from completed investigations to date.

Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin T.D., today ( 31 st August 2009 ) said that the "high visibility checkpoints were having the desired effect of detecting fraud and deterring others from seeking to claim welfare entitlements they were not due.  We intend to continue these operations working closely with our colleagues in the Gardai Siochana and Revenue Commissioners in the fight to counter fraud and abuse of our systems."

Operations along border counties have been stepped up since March of this year, as part of a crackdown on people travelling from Northern Ireland to Social Welfare offices in border towns to try to claim Jobseekers payments, which are paid at a higher rate in the Republic.

Since March of this year 32 checkpoints were specifically set up by An Garda Siochana with staff from the Department of Social Welfare and the Revenue’s Customs service, in counties Louth, Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim. 

The timing and location of particular checkpoints are linked to signing days at local Social Welfare offices. The officials work in tandem - to tackle social welfare abuses, evasion of Vehicle Registration Tax, marked gas oil abuses as well as detection of Road Traffic offences. A number of cars have been seized by the Customs officers at these checkpoints.

Of the Welfare investigations completed to date, 24 claims by individuals have been suspended as a direct result of the work of the inspectors on the checkpoints, while further customers whose claims had not gone into payment ceased pursuing their claim following being interviewed by Social Welfare Inspectors.

In addition to this, customers who failed to sign on at the Local SW office on days when the Multi-Agency Vehicle Checkpoints were being operated in particular locations were each reviewed to establish why they failed to do so.

Minister Hanafin went on to say "more of these multi-agency operations will be taking place in the weeks and months ahead. Staff working in local offices along the border counties have reported a marked decrease in the numbers of new claims from customers who were previously resident in Northern Ireland.

The rate of increase in claims in the offices along the border has reduced since these operations began. I know too that there has been a positive feedback from customers and the public alike to the on-going efforts to counter fraud and abuse of our system, particularly given the scarce resources available to us currently. We cannot and will not allow our system to be seen as a soft target for abuse."

Special preventative measures have been put in place in local offices to deal with all claims from persons who on registering as unemployed indicate that they were formerly resident in Northern Ireland.  A revised and more rigorous set of checks have been initiated at claim registration for all such cases. These cases are thoroughly investigated through home visits and clear proof of residency must be established by the individual concerned.

The Special Investigations Unit of the Department is also stepping up its focus on residency tests for existing applicants for Jobseekers payments with former Northern Ireland addresses. Inspectors are paying home visits to such categories of claimants on an ad-hoc basis to ensure their continued entitlement to claim jobseekers payments.


Notes for Editors

Table showing Live Register increase in border counties Jul 08-Jul 09
% Difference Jan 08 – Jan 09 ( See Note1) County Jul-08 Jul-09 Difference % Difference ( See Note2)
107% Co. Cavan 4,064 7,376 3,312 82%
111% Ballyconnell BO ( See Note3) 702 1,372 670 95%
106% Cavan LO ( See Note3) 3,362 6,004 2,642 79%
74% Co. Donegal 12,475 20,891 8,416 68%
123% Ballybofey BO ( See Note3) 1,430 2,651 1,221 85%
79% Ballyshannon BO ( See Note3) 723 1,382 659 91%
105% Buncrana LO ( See Note3) 2,711 4,852 2,141 79%
83% Donegal LO 765 1,336 571 75%
55% Dunfanaghy LO 935 1,514 579 62%
42% Dungloe LO 1,486 2,166 680 46%
35% Killybegs BO 1,009 1,315 306 30%
63% Letterkenny LO 3,416 5,675 2,259 66%
87% Co. Leitrim 2,000 3,752 1,752 87%
85% Carrick-on-Shannon LO 1,494 2,838 1,344 90%
93% Manorhamilton LO ( See Note3) 506 914 408 81%
79% Co. Louth 9,324 17,297 7,973 86%
105% Ardee BO 1,166 2,332 1,166 100%
81% Drogheda LO 4,381 8,449 4,068 93%
70% Dundalk LO ( See Note3) 3,777 6,516 2,739 73%
108% Co. Monaghan 3,568 6,490 2,922 82%
110% Carrickmacross BO ( See Note3) 872 1,678 806 92%
90% Castleblayney BO ( See Note3) 939 1,642 703 75%
112% Clones BO ( See Note3) 473 796 323 68%
120% Monaghan BO ( See Note3) 1,284 2,374 1,090 85%


Note 1:
Jan 08 –Jan 09 national Live Register increase +80.7% (CSO)
See also previous press release for stats on numbers on Live Register in border counties, at start of campaign in March 2009, available on 'www.welfare.ie'

Note 2:
Jul 08 – Jul 09 national Live Register increase +82.9% (CSO)

Note 3:
Indicates Social Welfare Local or Branch office close to border

Percentage increase in office more in line with national picture.

Reduction in percentage increase year on year over the two periods can possibly be attributed to a number of factors, including Multi Agency Vehicle checkpoints, as well as people leaving the Live Register as they have exhausted benefits and may not have an entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance, which is subject to means test & habitual residence condition.

Last modified:31/08/2009